Psychonauts review

PC Gamer finds itself riding the crest of a brainwave

GamesRadar+ Verdict


  • +

    it's high calibre of writing

  • +

    It's all about experimentation

  • +

    every mindset is a uniquely funny and original platforming environment.


  • -

    edge detection is slightly broken

  • -

    can be incredibly frustrating

  • -

    endless repetition of the tricky platform bits

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

If someone were to make a Games Developers' Hall of Fame, I would have one and only one nomination: Tim Schafer.

This man is responsible for so many great games. His ridiculously high calibre of writing, and passion for creating lucid and flawless adventures, has brought us wonders like Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, and a contribution to the Monkey Island series. A proud statue indeed.

While many attempt to reinvent the adventure game for the short attention spans of the modern era, Schafer leaps toward the ludicrous: applying his unique principles to the platform game.

Playing as Razputin, a runaway child hiding in a summer camp for psychic children, events begin with classic Schafer-esque exploration of the environment. There's an extensive cast of eccentric children and adults to talk with, or perhaps discover what happens if you hit them or try to set them on fire. It's all about experimentation.

The campsite is full of stories about the various in-game characters, has a shop where you can buy bonus goodies, and changes as the game progresses. It's a wonderful place to explore but it's just the base camp for the jump into the main levels.

As a Psychonaut you can travel into the human psyche as an astronaut travels into space. Each level is a surreal trip through someone else's mind and their personality dictates the level design - the crazed conjurings of a twisted 'Nam vet, for instance.

The first brain-level is slightly shaky but, after that, every mindset is a uniquely funny, original and exquisitely-crafted platforming environment.

Schafer does comedy very, very well. We all know that funny is a painfully rare currency in games, but Schafer compares with comedy writers in any medium because he's aware that the best laughs are tempered with pathos.

Messing about in someone's head, you battle against their inner demons, unravel their fascinating backstory, and can cure their psychological disorders. Along the way you must find the character's 'emotional baggage' (weeping luggage), 'figments of the imagination' (floating shapes that reveal their personality), and memories locked up in safes.

More info

DescriptionPlay as Raz, a young boy gifted with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus and sneaks into a Psychonaut boot camp, with operatives that possess the same psychic powers. When a crazy scientist begins abducting Psychonauts for their brains, it's up to Raz to put an end to it once and for all.
US censor rating"","","Teen","Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"","","12+","12+","12+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)